Taylor's inspirational tale of recovery
Our inspirational young defender Max Taylor discusses his return to action and why cancer will not define him...
The diagnosis, how did that come about? “It was during my first pre-season with the Under-23s, as a first-year pro. I felt a lump at first and had a bit of a dragging pain when I would do sprints as stuff.” Was this a continuous thing over weeks? “Yeah. From the start of pre-season I didn’t feel right and it was about three or four weeks I started to feel it a bit when we were doing sprints. We were doing longer stuff and I was panting heavy and had a pain. It was every time I would get to that heavy stage I would get that pain in the same area.” Did you notice anything prior to, or after, training? “Not really. It was more like when you had a heavy session you would feel like you’re dragging a lot more. Then I went to the doctor and had it checked. At first it was just a cyst and then I had antibiotics and after a week it was fine. Then a week later, so two weeks after first going in, it came back but it was bigger and had a bit of an infection. I got sent by the club doctor to a specialist and he gave me the same antibiotics and told me I probably just need a longer course, but he sent me off for a scan to just make sure everything was alright. Then it was at the scan that they found a cancer-looking cell right in the middle.” When the doctor diagnosed you, how did that come about on the day? “I went in and I was with my mum and stepdad and I got told ‘we have to take it out as it’s most likely testicular cancer’. I went for the operation about 10 days/two weeks after. I had the operation and I had removal and were quite hopefully because, as much as it was the shock of being told it was cancer, by the size of it, it was almost like it wasn’t going to be anything else and it would only be that area - it wouldn’t have got anywhere else.” How were your mum and your stepdad? “We all broke down when we first got told because, obviously, I’m 18 and playing. I’m in a bubble, you don’t think of anything else would come, especially something that you know is life-threatening. When you hear the word, it’s almost like ‘how is that possible?’ Instantly you just think worst-case scenario, which to anyone when they hear the word ‘cancer’ which is ‘will you live?’.” How did you find having the treatment? “I remember thinking, when I got told it was the nine weeks and I spoke to you the night before and told you what I was having: the cisplatin, the bleomycin and the etoposide and you said the cisplatin was the tough one. I remember thinking the night before ‘I should be alright - people have done it before’. And I remember that very first night of having the treatment I was so sick, I was so ill and I thought ‘nine weeks’ of this’.” I think it is probably because you are so fit, being an athlete and minding what you eat, to be given something so toxic shocks the body. I remember that phone call as well… “The night before, I just needed someone who had been in the same situation. It was obviously different types, but you’d been to The Christie.” Were you nervous? “Yeah I was definitely nervous, Of course, more so for the fact it was completely alien. I didn’t know what it was going to be like.” When were you given the all-clear? “The all-clear would have been mid-February. That was a massive relief. You just think ‘Oh my God, finally’. That is everything.” It feels like an absolute slog… “I think it’s because everyone has got their normal routine and you’re stuck doing the same thing that you were three or four months’ ago. I hadn’t improved since six months’ ago and there are lads who played there for six months and were improving. That was the hardest thing, looking at that and thinking ‘I’m stuck here, I can’t do it, I can’t change anything’.” That first game, I remember seeing it watching it. You were thrown into it so how did that feel? “I think that was the best thing, the fact I was thrown into it. If you know you are starting and you have a build-up then the nerves can take over. It can end up being something bigger than it is, as daft as that sounds. You can overthink it. At the end of the day it is just a game. It is your first game back, but it is a game and you have done it all of your life. It has been a while, but it is just a game. I remember getting thrown in and the feeling after, especially after a win, was amazing.” How did it feel, on Friday, when you ran out at Old Trafford? “It was massive for me and for my family to see it all. It was amazing. My mum was absolutely buzzing. She was probably crying again. She wouldn’t admit it, I couldn’t see, but she was probably crying again.”